The Titans and Ravens have had similar regular seasons in 2020 as each team lost certain games and to certain teams that they had no business losing to. At the same time, both teams historically thrive towards the end of the season, which makes Sunday’s game highly anticipated.
The last time these two teams met was in the Divisional Round of the playoffs where the Titans were coming off of a Wild-Card victory over the New England Patriots.
The Ravens earned a first-round bye after being the top team in the AFC.
As a Ravens fan, I remember this game being one of the most painful ones to watch. However, the silver lining to a loss like the one against Tennessee (in addition to Baltimore’s three regular season losses right now) is that the team’s young franchise quarterback is gaining more and more NFL experience.
A stinging playoff loss against a team like the Titans is a byproduct in the process of growth and improvement of Lamar Jackson.
Let’s take a look at the game script:
The Titans were the first one’s with the ball to begin the game.
In their first drive, Tennessee deployed a number of play action looks and doses of Derrick Henry against the Baltimore defense early on.
The fiery Baltimore defense sniffed out what Tennessee was doing early on, played with physicality (a big Marcus Peters tackle on Henry comes to mind), and forced an early three and out.
The Baltimore offense, led by the recently crowned NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, got the ball with just under 10 minutes left in the first quarter and began to put together a really solid drive.
Baltimore’s running game was hot with doses of both Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram.
On the verge of putting points on the board, Jackson threw pass intended for Mark Andrews. The ball grazed Andrews’ finger tips and was picked off by Kevin Byard.
Baltimore gave the ball back to Tennessee as the game remained scoreless.
Starting in their own territory, the Tennessee offense began to give the Baltimore defense a steady dose of Henry, which allowed for Tennessee to gain traction and quickly end up in Baltimore territory.
A twelve-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Jonnu Smith gave Tennessee the early seven-point lead.
Looking to respond, Baltimore put together what looked to be another solid drive. Feeling desperation to put points on the board, Coach Harbaugh decided to go for a fourth-down and one at their own 45-yard line.
A Jackson sneak was stopped for no gain and Baltimore turned the ball over on downs.
Looking to extend their lead, the Titans were in prime position to do so as they begin their drive in Baltimore territory.
The following play, Tannehill launched a designed play-action pass to the speedy Kalif Raymond for a 45-yard touchdown.
It was at this moment where I started expressing doubts about Baltimore’s chances of victory.
On the following drive, Jackson and the Ravens failed to put anything together and had an immediate three and out.
A perfect third and 10 pass from Jackson to Seth Roberts was dropped. Had Roberts secured the pass, the game would've looked much different.
Then the Titans went three and out as the Ravens secondary blanketed Tennessee’s receivers and stopped Henry.
On Baltimore's next drive, Jackson threw a 30-yard dart to Marquise Brown to set the Ravens in Tennessee territory.
Hoping to find pay dirt, the Ravens were unable to do so and settled for three points with a Justin Tucker kick.
Tennessee got the ball back with 5:52 left in the second quarter.
Baltimore’s defense made a really nice stand to prevent the Titans from entering Ravens territory.
A Brett Kern punt pinned Baltimore at their own five yard line.
Jackson and the Baltimore offense run a two-minute drill to trim Tennessee’s lead down even further.
Jackson made a couple of really nice third-down and long throws, first to Roberts and then to Brown.
Brown’s one-handed catch was a highlight to remember in this game.
After Brown’s catch, Baltimore found themselves at the Tennessee four-yard line with 11 ticks left before halftime.
Looking to score six, Jackson’s pass fell incomplete. Tucker trimmed the Tennessee lead to 13 heading into the half.
The Ravens get the ball to start the second half.
Jackson and the Ravens began to deal.
After 12 plays, the Ravens found themselves at a fourth-down and one at the Tennessee 18-yard line.
Rather than taking the three points and having a five-point deficit, Coach Harbaugh decides to go for it again as he remained adamant about scoring six.
Baltimore failed to convert on a Jackson sneak and turned the ball over on downs, once again.
On Tennessee’s next drive, a steady diet of Henry gave them six after a short, six play, 81-yard drive.
Down 21-6, Baltimore needed to gain some traction on the scoreboard.
On the first play of their drive, Jurrell Casey forced a fumble, allowing Tennessee’s offense to start their drive deep in Baltimore territory.
On the sixth play of their drive, a one-yard Tannehill touchdown on third and goal extended Tennessee’s lead to 22.
In Baltimore's next drive, they once again marched down the field and found themselves in scoring position.
A Miles Boykin-intended third and five pass was undercut and intercepted by Kenny Vaccaro.
After a Tennessee three and out, Baltimore got the ball back needing to score as the fourth quarter began.
Jackson and the Ravens marched down the field and finally found the end zone as Jackson hit Hayden Hurst for a 15-yard touchdown.
On Tennessee’s following drive, the Ravens forced another three and out and gave Jackson and the offense the ball with 6:25 left in the fourth quarter.
At this juncture of the game, it was undoubtedly four-down territory for the Ravens.
Taking advantage of Tennessee’s zone-heavy looks, Jackson and the Ravens once again drove deep into Tennessee territory.
Baltimore failed to cash in and extend the game as Tennessee’s defense forced a turnover on downs.
One can only admire Tennessee’s red-zone defensive efficiency against an offense that marched down the field on several different occasions.
Not long after did Tennessee kneel out the game to solidify their upset victory over a team with the league’s best record.
Titans win 28-12.
What can we expect this Sunday?
Both teams are coming off of losses and must gain traction in their respective divisions.
In general, Tennessee’s roster remains unchanged for the most part as their offense is led by the likes of Henry, Tannehill, A.J. Brown, and Jonnu Smith.
The depth of Baltimore's front seven will be tested as great uncertainty lies with the health of Brandon Williams and Calais Campbell.
If the Ravens let Henry run free much like Damien Harris did in last week's game, they could be in for another long and physical game.
The Baltimore offense must find some sort of consistency outside of Jackson. Players like Devin Duvernay, Marquise Brown, and J.K. Dobbins must step up in order to keep up with a Titans offense that has the ability to quickly put up points at any juncture of the game.
Additionally, the Baltimore offense must put together long and time consuming drives so the defense stays fresh when needing to stop Henry. Smart, creative, and efficient play-calling will be needed from Greg Roman to keep Tennessee’s defense at bay.
Overall, I don't expect Sunday’s game to be as physical as what was seen against the Patriots. Nonetheless, expect a physical game because the stakes are extremely high in this crucial AFC matchup.